Fifty Graduating Seniors Inducted into Phi Beta Kappa

By Rebecca Goldfine
The students joined the oldest and most prestigious undergraduate honors society in a formal ceremony on May 26, the day before Commencement.
full view of the recital hall as students are inducted into the society
Bowdoin's Phi Beta Kappa ceremony on May 26. Photos by Michele Stapleton.

Each year, students are elected into the society based on the breadth and depth of their scholarly achievements, desire to experience the world from multiple viewpoints, good moral character, and personal integrity.

Professor of Anthropology Krista Van Vleet—interim president of Phi Beta Kappa's Alpha of Maine chapterled the induction ceremony, which took place Friday morning in Studzinkski Hall's Kanbar Auditorium. She was assisted by two fellow officers: Senior Lecturer in Classics and Alpha of Maine treasurer and nominating committee chair Michael Nerdahl and Bowdoin Museum of Art Codirector and Alpha of Maine secretary Anne Collins Goodyear.

Addressing the students who sat before her in the audience, Van Vleet said, "You are being honored today because during your time at Bowdoin you fully engaged in the intellectual life of the College. You embraced the liberal arts, demonstrated intellectual curiosity in the arts, humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences, and distinguished yourselves...with your critical and creative thinking, global awareness, integrity, and exceptional academic achievements."

President Clayton Rose also praised the students' achievements, which he said "required in equal measures hard work, discipline, creativity, and intellectual nimbleness, all fueled by a love of ideas and knowledge."

Nerdahl provided a short history of Phi Beta Kappa. Five students founded the organization in Williamsburg, Virginia, during the American Revolution, in 1776, to advance the Greek motto philosophia biou kybernētēs, "love of learning is the guide of life." 

Bowdoin established the Alpha of Maine chapter in 1825, making it the sixth-oldest in the country. Herman Samuel Dreer, Class of 1910, became the first African American man to be inducted into Maine's organization. In 1973, Donna L. Dionne was the first woman elected to Bowdoin’s society.

Elsewhere, the first African American men were elected at Yale in 1874 and at the University of Vermont in 1877. The first women were inducted at the University of Vermont in 1875 and at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University in 1876. The first African American woman was elected at Middlebury College in 1899.

Bowdoin's Newest Phi Beta Kappa Members
  • Sophia E. Adami-Sampson
  • Paloma Aguirre
  • Abby Marjorie Allen
  • John Dowling Auer
  • Gabe Tait Batista
  • Per Moynier Black
  • Emma Aurelie Bomfim
  • Sydney Marie Bonauto
  • Salina Chin
  • Sarah Elizabeth Clarke
  • Jean Clemente
  • Rory Mayne Devlin
  • Lucas John DiCerbo
  • Carly Elizabeth Dickson
  • Shayla Christine Eubanks
  • Seamus Frey
  • Ted G. Fuell
  • Ari Steven Geisler
  • Yordana Vladimirova Gerdzhikova
  • Ana Brady Gunther
  • Benjamin William Heinrich
  • Bram Lucian Hollis
  • Julia Marie Jennings
  • Hayden Keene
  • Ryan Scott Kovarovics
  • Sinclaire Ledahl
  • Juntao Lu
  • Anna Camille Leitner
  • Thomas Michael Mazzuchi
  • Angela Mary McKenzie
  • Liam Kevin McNett
  • Perrin Edgar Milliken
  • Annika Ruddon Moore
  • Isabel Stella Petropoulos
  • Luke Edwin Porter
  • Lily Claire Randall
  • Patrick Thomas Rochford
  • Elijah Dacones Rowland
  • Gail Maria Saez-Hall
  • Corey Schmolka
  • Pranay Vir Singh
  • Jilly Claire Sher
  • Eliot Ray Small
  • Lily Caroline Smith
  • Jacey Wanru Song
  • Christoph Anders Tatgenhorst
  • Sujata Eden Tewari
  • Abby Wang
  • Jack McDermott Wellschlager
  • Ian Maling Zogg

"Phi Beta Kappa Alpha of Maine is proud to include and celebrate the accomplishments of an increasingly diverse array of students, faculty, and staff whose gender identities, racial and ethnic backgrounds, and diverse educational and life experiences enrich the society, the College, and the wider community," Nerdahl said.

Today, there are 293 campus-based chapters like Bowdoin's that advance the organization's goal of celebrating academic excellence and promoting the lifelong value of a liberal education (liberal as in the Latin word for "free," Nerdahl noted). There are more than 500,000 living members. "And now here in Kanbar Auditorium in Studzinski Recital Hall, on Bowdoin College's campus, we have just added fifty auspicious new names to that roster of exceptional people," he added. 

Those initiated into Alpha of Maine sign a membership book, which is kept in the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives in Hawthorne-Longfellow Library. The book includes the signatures of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Nathaniel Hawthorne (both Class of 1825), Alfred Kinsey (Class of 1916), and Cynthia McFadden ’78, H’12.

Phi Beta Kappa members also include seventeen US presidents (one a Bowdoin graduate, Franklin Pierce, Class of 1824) and forty-two US Supreme Court justices (two of whom were Bowdoin graduates, Melville Fuller, Class of 1853, and Harold Hitz Burton, Class of 1909), pointed out Carol O'Donnell, who is Phi Beta Kappa's New England district senator.

"You have already demonstrated your mental powers," she said to the Bowdoin inductees at the Friday ceremony. "I would encourage you to seek opportunities to apply your talents to the common good. As the poet Mary Oliver challenged us to consider, 'What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?' You certainly can make a difference, and I imagine you'll all do great things."